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5 Reasons To Use Guided Career Exploration With Middle School Students

It is important that students are given the opportunity to work through guided career exploration to think about their futures.

It is important that students are given the opportunity to work through guided career exploration.

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a “high-powered CEO.” I don’t think I knew what that job was, but all of the powerful ladies in the movies I was watching (let’s not judge now) were awesome and held similar jobs. In high school, I was convinced that I was going to be an environmentalist and work for an NGO. Then I changed my mind during the first week of university and completely changed my focus, deciding teaching was the career for me. I remember calling my mother on a payphone to tell her my major life decision at 19! 

No matter what the plan or how many times it changes, career exploration is a part of our lives from the time we are small. 

As teachers, we want to help prepare our students for their futures – both mentally and academically – whatever those futures might hold. Let’s talk about reasons why guided career exploration is important as part of that preparation and education.

Reason One: Forming a Game Plan

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” can be a surprisingly scary question to many students. It implies all sorts of decisions and a certain amount of finality. 

However, middle and high school students are just starting to figure out who they might be, and figuring out what one thing they want to do with the rest of their lives can be completely overwhelming.  

By helping students explore different career options through guided career exploration, you give them not only a sense of control over their futures, but you will help them begin to put a plan in place for figuring out the answers to those scary questions about their futures.  

You also can help students know that no matter what game plan they devise and the course they set, it is okay for plans to change.

Reason Two: “I Didn’t Know That Was a Thing!”

Why do careers often run in families, why do small children dream of becoming teachers, doctors, and firefighters, and why are careers like a doula or CIA analyst ones that are often not considered until adulthood?  

Because we can’t dream about that which we don’t know.  No matter how good a fit a career in medical virology would be, if a student doesn’t know it is an option, they can’t reach for it.  

With guided career exploration, you can help open doors that students didn’t know existed just by helping them explore a multitude of career options.

Reason Three: Details, Details, Details

It is easy for a student to say they want to be a nurse, an engineer, a teacher, or go into business, but those professions have a very large variety of careers within them.  

  • A nurse might deliver babies or provide end-of-life hospice care.  
  • An engineer might design the wiring behind the dashboard of a car or figure out the most efficient way to dry milk into powder.  
  • Teachers can teach everything from kindergarten special ed to theatre students. 

And don’t forget helping students face the realities of a chosen career; someone who feels faint at the sight of blood probably should reconsider becoming a veterinarian no matter how much they love animals, and just because someone loves a good debate doesn’t mean he or she is cut out for being a lawyer.  

Guided career exploration can help students to explore what a job is, what it is not, and what it involves, and not just the job’s reputation or salary. It is critically important to help students make informed and intelligent decisions about their futures.  

Reason Four: Knowing the Prerequisites

Any career plan, no matter if it is developed in elementary school or college, comes with a whole set of prerequisites.  

  • Interested in being pre-med? You should lean heavily toward the sciences.  
  • Want a career in business? Some classes in math and writing will serve you well.  
  • A high schooler who wants to join the military should consider joining a cadets program.  

Not only does getting these prerequisites taken care of help students to get a leg up as they continue toward their career goals, but these prerequisites can also help students decide if their plan is a good fit.  

Additionally, guided career exploration can help students see the value in the work they are doing and provide them with the concrete motivation to work hard and do well in these endeavours that they might not have otherwise.

Reason Five: Letting All Students Know They Belong

For many students, especially those without strong role models in their lives, at-risk youth, and those who feel alienated from society for one reason or another, guided career exploration can help them not only envision a possible future but envision a world in which they are an integral part.  

Giving these students not only immediate goals and plans but also a connectedness to society and the future world helps them see their own value.  Students who feel valued and connected to the world around them are more successful both now and in the future.  

And this, no matter how goals and plans may change in the future, has value without measure!

Career Exploration and Research Project

Career Research Project

Now that you’ve learned all of the benefits of guided career exploration, you might be wondering how to start to teach it in your own classroom. But where should you begin?  You’re in luck. This Career Exploration and Research Project is all you need to get started.

This Career Exploration and Research Project will help your students think purposely about their futures. Students will get excited about career research by taking an online career quiz, then brainstorming possible career choices.

After, they will follow a guided assignment process – brainstorming, research, career poster creation, and oral presentation with scheduled check-ins throughout the process to ensure project completion. Level and points-based assessment sheets are provided in this assignment.

This 20 Page Resource Includes:

  • Detailed Teacher Instructions
  • Career Research Assignment Sheet
  • 2 Types of Assessment Rubrics {Levels 1 – 4 and Points Based}
  • 6 Graphic Organizers (Student Research and Teacher Organization)
  • Research Assistance – American and Canadian career website links provided
  • Print & Digital Formats

What teachers are saying: 

“I loved incorporating this into my end of year activities. Students enjoyed looking into what their future possibilities may be. Tied in nicely with resumes and programming given for transition to high school!” – Kristin H.

“A great resource to help my students focus on an area of interest. My students are so interested in their futures that this project helped them focus on what they want and how to achieve it. A great tool that can be used at any time!” – Daniela P.

Find this resource on Shopify CAD and Teachers Pay Teachers USD.

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